Huge cave discovered on moon could make flawless base for future explorer

Gwen Vasquez
October 20, 2017

Scientists widely believe the moon experienced a series of large-scale volcanic activity up until about one billion years ago.

Emptiness contains under the Marius hills on the external side of the moon.

It was located by researchers at JAXA, the Japanese space agency, using radar data from the SELENE spacecraft to look for echo patterns that might reveal open entrances to giant underground chambers.

Lava tubes are naturally occurring channels formed when a lava flow develops a hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream.

The cave is about 100m wide and stretches 50km across the moon's surface according to data collected by JAXA's moon probe called the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), Japanese news site Asahi Shimburn reports. In the event that the lava flow is cut off the lava can drain from the tube, leaving a cylindrical rock formation behind.

There has been speculation surrounding the presence of lava tubes on the moon since the Apollo era and this research marks an important step towards finding a suitable location for human use.

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Additionally, JAXA said, the lunar lava tubes may prepare scientists for exploring Mars: They are "analog environments that can provide insights into Martian subsurface lava tubes, where Martian life might have emerged and perhaps might even survive to this day".

"They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn't have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone", said Professor Jay Melosh of Purdu and a GRAIL. "By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are", he said, according to IBTimes.

This announcement has been made after Japan confirmed that the country has plans to place an astronaut on Moon by 2030. Previous year it said it had plans to eventually create a colony there.

"Our long-term goal is to explore, land, and settle (on the moon)", chief designer of China's space missions told the BBC.

Because those samples will not have been degraded from exposure on the surface, they could be a window into the moon's past and teach us about how Earth's satellite evolved.

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